What does Sustainability mean to YOU?

The word sustainability can mean many things to many people. It’s also a word that all too often is misunderstood and misused. The City of Detroit’s Office of Sustainability is led by Joel Howrani-Heeres. Working alongside him is Justin Fenwick and Whitney Smith. In addition, a number of other stakeholder groups and a cohort of volunteer Sustainability Ambassadors complete the team. And this team has been doing anything but misusing this vitally important word.

For Detroit, Sustainability has been defined as: “Meeting the needs of our current generations without sacrificing the needs of future generations, through a focus on equity, environment, and economy.” This is a variation of one of the most quoted definitions, the Brundtland definition. The variation adopted by the Office of Sustainability incorporates the triple bottom line business strategies – people, planet, profit – that the SMSBF promotes and supports. In this definition the related terms are equity (people), environment (planet) and economy (profit).

In its quest towards a sustainable Detroit, the Office of Sustainability recently completed Phase 2.5 of its “Sustainability Action Agenda”. Phase 2.5 is the latest installment to the Action Agenda which began in May 2018 and will culminate in spring of 2019.

The stated vision of the Action Agenda is “…a prosperous, green city where all Detroiters, current and future, are able to meet their basic needs, live up to their full potential, and play a role in shaping healthy, equitable, connected neighborhoods. Through intentional inclusion, transparency, and accountability, we will begin to reverse the legacies of racism and disinvestment in our community.”

These words are truly important to the future vitality and success of Detroit.

With the completion of Phase 2.5, Joel and his team have lived up to the vision of having all Detroiters “play a role in shaping healthy, equitable, connected neighborhoods”.

Since the project began in May 2018, the Office has held numerous interviews, meetings, and engagements with Detroiters. They have been gathering their views on what it will take to create a sustainable Detroit. The input from all of this work has been documented and analyzed. It is now being shaped into a plan with concrete, actionable steps. All of this work has happened in an open and transparent way. Importantly, this work is not about Joel and his team. The ultimate goal is to create an accurate picture of what a sustainable Detroit looks like for everyone.

The SMSBF is proud to have participated in a portion of the Action Agenda. We are looking forward to continuing our collaboration with the Office of Sustainability. To learn more about the project, click here to go to the City of Detroit’s CoUrbanize site and explore what’s been done and what’s being planned.